They told her that a deadly virus “like a whooping cough” seized the land and had even hit the nearby town of Maicao. But she was skeptical that it was so close to home. “I don’t know if this is true,” said 38-year-old Montiel, who is part of the country’s largest indigenous group, Wayuu.
When the Colombian government issued a nationwide closure in late April, she and her husband were urged to stay home with their three children, stay away from other people, wash their hands and wear masks to avoid the virus that has killed more than 365,000 people worldwide.
But for Montiels, the home-order is its own kind of death sentence.
Prior to locking, Angela occasionally filled in a SIM card to use WhatsApp, but has not been able to recharge it since locking. Without an Internet connection, there is no way to “work remotely.” Angela knits traditional Wayuu mochila bags, but she can’t sell them on the street under the current restrictions.
Currently, her family has survived cash payments from the non-governmental organization Mercy Corps. It is impossible for her children to continue their education from home without access to school material online. As for updates, they are waiting for phone calls from friends or family who may be bringing news. Otherwise, they are in the dark.
“Since we don’t have TV, internet or anything, we don’t know if it’s still going on or whether it’s continuing, so we obviously can’t go out or move around,” Montiel said. “We are in despair.”
Governments around the world have pledged to provide universal access by 2020, but the digital divide is still running deep and also increasing inequality offline.
People in poor regions are less likely to be connected, as are women, older people, and those living in remote or rural areas. And in many cases, connecting can be strenuous – closures of offices, schools or public spaces, such as libraries and cafes, have cut off access for many.
“Covid-19 has shown that there is such a big gap, and it has actually come as a shock to some governments. When they asked their employees to leave work from home … many of them couldn’t.
Sarpong hopes the crisis will break through long-standing barriers to internet access – from a lack of political will to regulatory barriers and affordable data – to getting more of the world connected.
“Governments need to look at Internet access, not as a luxury, but to see it as an opportunity that can transform their economies … I think it’s a wake up call for them,” Sarpong said.
A digital gender difference
Digital technologies have rapidly revolutionized life as we know it. But not everyone benefits equally, and many stay behind due to lack of infrastructure, reading and education.
In India, an aggressive approach to digitization has shifted most public benefits online – from rations to pensions. Even before the pandemic, the country’s poorest depended on digital, despite half the population being offline.
The pandemic has only reinforced the irony of this situation.
Lal Bai, a 65-year-old widow living in a secluded village in Rajasthan, was unable to withdraw the five miles to the nearest town to withdraw government cash, and had no means of accessing state funds online, so she quickly found even without food back home.
Awkward, Bai ended up right outside the door of Ombati Prajapati, who runs a digital services store in her village. “She was the only one who would help me.”
“It’s only because of the internet that I can see what’s happening and tell others that they have to wash their hands regularly with soap, use a cleanser, wear masks,” said Prajapati, 27. “I wouldn’t have been in able to help any of these people [if I had not learned how to use the internet]. I would not have been able to even help myself. “
Osama Manzar, a social entrepreneur and DEF founder, says their work on educating women like Prajapati has shown how important it is to have digital infrastructure available for the last mile – especially during a disaster.
“Connecting and accessing the Internet must be part of the basic human rights. It must be considered at the time of the pandemic and disaster, just as you provide access to food or water, there must be a way to provide access to data,” Manzar said.
A problem for rich countries too
More than four in 10 low-income households in America do not have access to broadband services, according to Pew’s surveys. And in the UK, 1.9 million households have no internet access, while tens of millions more rely on pay-as-you-go services to get online.
“For many people, digital exclusion is just an extension of social exclusion that they face, and poverty is certainly part of it.”
“I wasn’t ready at all. I was very lonely and depressed when the lockdown first started, but since I’ve had the tablet … when I feel lonely, I can talk to my grandchildren or my daughter. with them because they’re always online. “
On May 1, Addison turned 60. She celebrated with her grandchildren over a video chat on her new iPad – the same iPad she now uses to check her distribution portal. And she recently signed up for a dating site as well. “I feel like a teenager,” she said.
But as governments try to roll out digital services to the most used ones, the question remains: Who gets a device and who doesn’t?
“This unit is not just about immediate support under Covid, but it is about opening the gate, to parents and to families, to aspirations and opportunities,” Shaikh said. There are currently 1,500 others on the waiting list.
“The biggest challenge is, who do I choose?”
CNN’s Swati Gupta and Jack Guy contributed to this report.